“Six weeks after my surgery I was golfing again”

Peppy and Linda Fleming

Halifax resident and TFRI study participant Pierre “Peppy” Lavigueur was happy when his doctor told him he had lung cancer.

“My doctor told me I didn’t seem upset, and I said ‘No, I’m happy!’” Lavigueur laughs. “Instead of me finding out three or four years down the road that I have lung cancer, when it’s too late, now we’re taking out the cancer early. Your system and your study really works!”

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Lavigueur, 70, was in his third year participating in TFRI’s Pan-Canadian Early Lung Cancer Detection Study when his doctor noticed something unusual on a computerized tomography (CT) scan. Further X-rays and positron emission tomography (PET) scans confirmed it: He had a 1.4 cm lung cancer tumour in the upper lobe of his left lung.

Every year, approximately 24,000 Canadians are diagnosed with lung cancer. It kills more people than breast, colorectal or prostate cancer combined.

Despite smoking for more than 50 years, Lavigueur had no symptoms of illness. He is one of 2,500 participants in the six-year study which to date has a cancer detection rate of 4.8 per cent using low-dose, spiral-computed tomography to detect lung cancer early among a high-risk population.

Lavigueur had his last cigarette four months before his surgery at Halifax’s Victoria General Hospital to remove the cancer and part of his lung. He says his recovery has been remarkably speedy and complication-free.

“Six weeks after my surgery, I was golfing again,” says Lavigueur, noting that he also runs and goes to the gym. “I didn’t need any other treatments – no chemotherapy, no radiation, nothing. My breathing is now back to where it was before surgery.”

Doctors will monitor Lavigueur closely for five years after this surgery. Three years down the road, he is still cancer free.

“Studies like this aren’t just very important, they’re necessary,” says Lavigueur, who lives with his wife of 26 years in Halifax. “Many people that end up getting operated on for lung cancer lose a whole lung. But with the screening, they were able to get my cancer when it was the size of a pea — I didn’t lose too much (of the) lung. Today, I have no problems. I’m back!”